The Scoop on Fat: lard and oil

04Fat5x5As an uneducated consumer who bought products based on price—for the most part—and took product names at face value, I didn’t know what I was truly buying. When I saw vegetable oil, I assumed it was oil from vegetables…more than one vegetable. When I purchased shortening, I assumed I was buying fat rendered from animals. Perhaps this was true fifty or maybe thirty years ago, but by no means is that the case today.

Below are a few products I purchased—blindly—before I took note of the true ingredients.

Vegetable Oil: In this case, Mazola Vegetable Oil


What does this product of USA contain? Soybean Oil…that’s it. Soybean. That’s the extent of the vegetables.

Knowing that more than 90% of all soybeans grown in the United States contain GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) and that I was consuming them and feeding them to my children horrified me. My goal is to eliminate GMOs from my diet, so buying American soybean oil is going in the wrong direction.

I use vegetable oil in pancakes, cakes, stews and other baked goods as well as a lubricant while pan cooking. Other recipes—such as cookies—call for a solid product, aka shortening.

I believed all shortening was rendered fat from animals. The only difference was the quality, so when I shopped for shortening, if I had the money, I bought the brand names—Crisco, Tenderflake, etc. If I was short on cash, I picked up the cheap stuff; the noname or store brand. The quality wasn’t as great, but hey, it was still lard. Right?


The cheapest shortening I’ve bought is Compliments. That’s the brand name for Sobeys products. It’s an All Vegetable shortening…mmm…All vegetable doesn’t hint at animal fat. But I remind you, I didn’t shop by thoroughly reading the ingredients. I shopped by habit. Shortening was lard.



The ingredients listed on the box of Compliments Vegetable Shortening are: hydrogenated soybean and/or canola oil, hydrogenated modified palm oil, mono- and diglycerides, BHA, BHT and citric acid.

It’s prepared for Sobeys in Mississauga, Ontario. Does that mean the soybean and canola were grown in Canada? Or were they grown in the United States and shipped to Ontario where the shortening was produced? Regardless of where the soybean was grown, I don’t believe I’m safe from GMOs. Canadian farmers also grow soybean containing GMOs. Our local Co-op has a sign offering it for sale to the farmers in Nova Scotia. It’s Round-up Ready soybean.

Canola Oil is just as bad as soybean as far as GMOs are concerned, so I’m ousting canola from my diet, too.

What about the other products in the shortening. What are they?

Mono- and diglycerides

According to the Enable website, “mono- and diglycerides are fats. They are made from oil, usually soybean, cottonseed, sunflower, or palm oil, act as emulsifiers (provide a consistent texture and prevent separation), and are used in most baked products to keep them from getting stale.”


According to Wikipedia, it’s Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA): “It is a waxy solid used as a food additive with the E number E320. The primary use for BHA is as an antioxidant and preservative in food, food packaging, animal feed, cosmetics, rubber, and petroleum products.”


According to Wikipedia, it’s “Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), also known as butylhydroxytoluene, is a lipophilic (fat-soluble) organic compound, chemically a derivative of phenol, that is useful for its antioxidant properties. European and U.S. regulations allow small percentages to be used as a food additive, but that is with controversy as there are claimed links to child hyperactivity as well as to cancer, and conversely, BHT is advocated as a diet supplement and antiviral useful against herpes family viruses.”

MORE: BHT is added to food to keep the oil from going rancid. The Good Human has additional information on which products contain BHT and why you shouldn’t consume it.

To learn more about the dangers of BHA and BHT, visit David Suzuki’s website.

…so, does this product sound healthy? I’ll leave that answer up to you.

Another product I’ve used is Crisco Shortening—which also happens to be an ‘all vegetable’ shortening (to my surprise, not a lard).


The ingredients of Crisco Shortening are: soybean oil, hydrogenated palm and soybean oils, mono and diglycerides, TBHQ, citric acid. Crisco is a product of the USA, so it’s almost guaranteed the soybean contains GMOs. Since we’ve already discovered what mono and diglycerides are, let’s see what TBHQ is.

Natural News states: “Tertiary Butylhydroquinone, or TBHQ as it is more commonly referred to as, is in fact a chemical preservative which is a form of butane. It is used in foodstuffs to delay the onset of rancidness and greatly extends the storage life of foods.”

It goes on to say: “TBHQ is used in many foods, ranging from crackers to crisps to fast foods. It is also found in certain brands of pet foods, as well as in cosmetic and baby skincare products, varnish, lacquers and resins.”

Crisco Shortening doesn’t sound so great anymore.

Another shortening I’ve used many times over the years is Tenderflake. The ingredients in it are: lard, BHA, BHT, citric acid.


Wow! A product that actually contains lard. Mind you, the animal this is derived from may have been—probably was—fed GMO corn and other products unsafe for human consumption. We already know what BHA and BHT is, so let’s define citric acid.

According to Wikipedia, Citric Acid is a “weak organic acid. It is a natural preservative/conservative and is also used to add an acidic, or sour, taste to foods and soft drinks.”

Wikipedia goes on to say “Citric acid is a commodity chemical, and more than a million tonnes are produced every year by fermentation. It is used mainly as an acidifier, as a flavoring, and as a chelating agent.”

That doesn’t sound horrible, but without further research, I don’t know if the end product of industrial citric acid is as harmless as the naturally occurring version in citrus fruits.

A shortening brand I’ve bought in the past, but haven’t for a year or so, is Fluffo. A quick search on the Internet informs me this product is made by Crisco.

The ingredients are: soybean oil, hydrogenated palm and soybean oils, mono and diglycerides, TBHQ, citric acid. The shelf life is 24 months. Two whole years! The preservatives must work incredibly well.

Once again, I’m surprised by the soybean ingredients.

This exercise in learning what the products I use on a daily basis contain was shocking. It opened my eyes to what I’m really putting into the foods I make for my family and me. Home cooking is supposed to be healthier than fast-food, but it’s only as healthy as the ingredients used to make it.

NOTE: Just because a product was one way forty years ago, doesn’t mean it’s made with the same wholesome ingredients today. Read the labels. Become educated. Know what you are buying, what you are eating and what you are feeding your family.


9 thoughts on “The Scoop on Fat: lard and oil

  1. Hmm. Very interesting.
    What you should possibly be more scared of than the “GMO” in soybean oil, is the trans fatty acids in the hydrogenated version.

    The trouble with GM plants is more of a farming nature. And, yes, if you eat the whole bean, you might end up taking in e.g. fish genes you didn’t bargain on. (Not a fun thing for vegans.) But the oil is actually very much purified and contains only oil. No DNA. Therefore no risk of GM,

    But what they do to get the oil into a hard fat or wax, is of far greater danger to your health. They bubble hydrogen through it to harden it. If a fat got hard by itself in nature, it was done by enzymes, which all have a “recto” “spin” or orientation. The fatty acids that result, and that you can digest easily, are “cis”, or little boat-shaped or crescent-shaped molecules. You possess the enzymes to break those down.

    Artificial hydrogenation though creates two kinds of fatty acid, because it is random (and there are only two possibilities for the shape of that molecule). Cis, and trans. The “trans” acids look more like spiky rods, or splinters of glass fibre, and you don’t have the enzymes to digest them. Not only that; because of their shape they get stuck in the walls of arteries and intestines, causing tiny lesions on which – you guessed it – cholesterol plaque finds a foothold.

    So: Any hydrogenated plant oil (anything that is not a liquid at room temperature) is bad news. The only plant oil that can become a fat in room temperatures is coconut oil/butter.

    As for animal lard: Idk. That’s personal preference, I suspect. Studies have found that animals who ate a large amount of fat from another animal, incorporated this as is into their own fatty tissue without first breaking it down. In other words, if one eats a lot of pork fat, any fat one carries might well be pork fat.

    You’ll look far and wide to find anything with no preservatives. The best bet would be the local farmers’ market. The citric acid is probably okay though.

    • Thanks for dropping by and commenting.

      I’m more scared of GMOs in all foods since we don’t know what affects they’ll have on the body and future generations. The unknown is scarier than the known.

      I’m not sure what you mean about the oil containing no DNA. It’s all part of the same plant/seed, so they share DNA. I have to disagree and say there is definitely a risk when consuming GMs, but that risk (to humans and the environment) has so far been undefined. In twenty years they’ll realise their mistake, but it won’t change the fate of the generation which grew up eating these foods.

      I’m not vegan, so have no concerns about animal products in my food. I prefer the animal lard over the alternative: GMO oil. Seeking a self-sustaining existence without consuming animals products is more difficult and unnatural. I’ll eat my eggs and the extra roosters hatched out each year. I can’t have a dozen roosters to ten hens, and I often can’t give them away (which would be a waste of my resources if I did). I let their lives count for something instead of just killing them and throwing them in the trash.

      In the past few months, I’ve stopped using all the products in this post except for Tenderflake (the lard) to grease cooking pans. Olive oil and butter are the only ingredients I add to food, and I must say, cake and cookies with butter taste much better than shortening or margarine. Now that I’ve switched, I can’t go back. The taste is so incredibly different. I didn’t realise it would be.

      Each year I produce more and more of my own foods in the backyard, so I won’t have to buy the inferior products on the store shelves. I feel as though I’m dodging a bullet, a slow moving one that will take out many healthy humans in the years to come.

  2. Hi Diane :). I have to amend what I said earlier. GMO has advanced! They press the oils out of soy beans. While they might end up basically with oil, there is no guarantee that the Roundup herbicide that has been used for the soy won’t be dissolved off the skins and pressed out into the actual oil. So using soy oil, you may well be consuming herbicide. And some of those effects are very clearly outlined, one of the most significant being cancer.

    Here in South Africa the name of the game is maize (corn). 60% to 70% of our maize is already from Monsanto (and therefore the farmers have bought into Roundup etc). Maize sure doesn’t get washed before it is processed into maize meal, which is the main staple for 90% of the population. So most of us are happily consuming large volumes of Roundup…

    I also have to apologize about getting confused with my spin (I got in a spin, lol). “Recto” and “levo” refers to the spin or chirality of amino acids, not enzymes. Our amino acids are of the “levo” kind, the “recto” is foreign to life on Earth. Can be produced in lab but is indigestible. But the cis/trans conformation of small fats – I got that right. Trans fatty acids are the dangerous ones.

    Yes, I believe the only way will be to home-grow organic (really organic) veggies and keep chucks for meat. Guess a Koi pond can also be an asset. 😉 Back to basics.

  3. Thanks for this info. I’ve only started down the road of reading ingredient lists during the past year or so, after having been diagnosed with fructose malabsorption. There’s a long list of foods I have to avoid, including garlic, onion and corn syrup. This is taking me in the direction of eating whole foods and studying ingredient lists, because those things are in almost everything processed.

    I used to think GMO’s were an over-rated problem as far as consuming them went (though not as far as their negative impact on the environment), but I’m changing my mind as I read more. It’s starting to feel like we’re all being experimented on, like we might as well go into a lab and pick up a random petri dish and consume the contents as eat some of the stuff that’s masquerading as food out there now. I think my fructose malabsorption may be a blessing in disguise, leading as it has towards becoming an educated consumer and eating mostly whole foods.

    Now I just need to get me some roosters…cheers!

    • Thanks, Jan, for visiting my website and leaving a comment. I have always considered things before I ate them, levitated towards apples and oranges and away from candy heavily processed foods, but I never really read the label on many things I’d used for decades because…well, because I thought I knew what was in it. When a friend told me about Monsanto, I began looking into the food industry and I was shocked at what I found. It gave me an entirely different perspective on food and labelling.

      Now I never read the nutritional chart; it’s useless. So what if it contains 7g of sugar, 130 calories and 20% of your recommended Vitamin A for the day. Where do these ‘things’ come from? I’d rather eat a product with 7 grams of natural sugar (perhaps from the raspberries) than 3 grams of artificial sugar (perhaps from fructose).

      But we have been brain washed to look at that nutritional label and ignore the ingredients.

      From my work-related experience, I see everyone reading the nutritional label and no one except the people who are allergic to milk, nuts and other things read the ingredients.

      I was like you when it came to GMOs. Years ago when they began with corn and bragged about how it would grow without the need for more chemicals I was hooked. I agreed. What were people afraid of. In the past year, I learned this was all lies. The propaganda machine had won and had convinced millions of people that genetically modified corn was better than the old corn.

      We’ve got chickens and eat fresh eggs daily. You only need one rooster. Well, in a way you don’t even need him unless you want to hatch out your own eggs. Get a few hens–five is a good number–and that way you should get on average 2 to 3 eggs a day, depending on the breed.Heritage breeds are the way to go. They’re hardier, live longer and have less issues.

  4. We’ve been avoiding BHA, BHT and THBQ since my son was discovered to be on the spectrum. The difference in his behavior and ability to control himself when these are eliminated from his diet are astounding. I’ve known for quite awhile that we could not use shortening due to the presence of these chemicals. I haven’t found a suitable brand that doesn’t contain them. Have you?

    • No, I haven’t found an alternative, but I’m not looking. I suppose organic lard might not have it. I only use butter, olive oil or coconut oil. The only time I use Tenderflake lard is to grease pans.

  5. You have it backwards. Lard comes from animal fat and shortening from vegetable oil. Until recently shortening was considered best but now we know it contains trans fat which is the worst of all. So in 2017 lard is your best bet.

    • No, I don’t. Solid fats are shortenings.

      Shortening: “butter or other fat used for making pastry or bread.”

      There is nothing in that definition that states it must contain only vegetable oil.

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